Inspired By Back Lighting
Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. This is a painting I did as a demonstration in my Taos New Mexico Workshop. The workshop is normally at the end of May but not this year because of the pandemic. I am still hopeful that it can be rescheduled for this fall when the colors are changing and the days are sunny and cool.
This is the charming old mission in Arroyo Seco just outside of Taos. I always encourage the artists to walk around the area without their painting supplies looking for interesting views like this before they start painting. I have walked right past this spot many times but one of the students was set up there so I stoped to talk to her and was struck by the back lighting on the aspen trees against the light struck facade of the mission. Light and shadow at different times of the day can make anything more interesting. I found the cast shadow on the roof from the bell tower particularly interesting and I knew that in another hour or so it would be gone.
When painting, everything in shadow has to be darker than everything in sunlight so here the white aspens, because they are in shadow, were painted darker than the light struck mission. Paintings done on location have a fresh quality that is hard to capture in the studio. Also, because the light is constantly changing, I work right along and spend less time with minor details that only clutter up the composition.
For the metal roof I mixed cadmium red with yellow ochre and for the mission I mixed cobalt violet with raw sienna. The gray for the aspen trees is a mixture of cerulean blue and cadmium red and I used pure cobalt violet in the lilac bush. I try to stay in an even rhythm as I manipulate my brush with different strokes and I almost never see any reason for perfect straight lines and this old adobe mission is a perfect example. The crooked lines add to the character of the subject. The days in Denver are warm now and I will be taking my paintbox and easel to places like Botanic Gardens to enjoy plein air painting. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton